Planet Gore

Detroit Auto Show: Fiat SUVs the Planet

Cobo Hall, Detroit — Obama administration apparatchiks swarmed the Detroit auto show this week to take credit for Chrysler’s resurgence, but the Obamabots were notably absent from one significant unveil: A made-in-Detroit Maserati SUV.

The dramatic, gas-guzzling Kubang truck was a decidedly off-message reminder that Obama’s greening of Detroit is not going as planned.

Obama’s ministers homed in on the federally subsidized Chevy Volt and other green vehicles on the showroom floor. But while their president demanded that — in return for handing over the keys to Chrysler keys — Fiat educate Detroit’s heathens on the 40 mpg Fiat 500, Fiat’s CEO has gone native. Unlike the White House, there is no room for ideologues atop bottom line-driven auto companies. Sergio Marchionne has figured out that there are trunkfuls of cash to be made selling SUVS. Jeeps –not Euro econoboxes — are what has saved Chrysler, as Americans have gobbled up the brand’s new offerings.

Now Marchionne wants to put everything on a Jeep platform — even the luxury Maserati. Drooling over the 13,000 Porsche Cayenne SUVs sold in the States last year (double what any Porsche sportscar has ever sold), Marchionne wants to SUV the planet.

“Maserati Means Jobs” trumpeted the green Detroit Free Press on it front page Wednesday after Fiat’s CEO announced that the Kubang would roll off the same Jefferson North Detroit Assembly line that is currently feeding Americans’ voracious appetite for giant Jeeps and Dodge Durangos. Last week, Chrysler announced a third UAW shift to produce the red hot trucks — creating 1,100 jobs in employment-starved Motown even before the Maserati hits the line.

Never mind that the Freep preaches the climate Apocalypse from its Sunday pulpit — greenbacks for union workers trumps green piety any day.

“Given what we have lived through in terms of the launch of the Grand Cherokee, and what’s happened with the Durango, we are getting a lot of confidence in the ability of that plant to make superb products,” thrilled Marchionne in making Jefferson North the hub from which Fiat will seed the world with trucks. Hear that Obamabots? Your European missionary worships the sport ute.

The Kubang will come with all-wheel-drive pawing at the earth under a snarling new Ferrari-made powerplant. That’s a loooong way from a fuel-sipping Fiat 500.

Henry Payne — Henry Payne is the auto critic for the Detroit News.

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